Poem after a line from Auden

Prayer, like poetry, makes nothing happen,if “make” means controland “happen” means an instant, an event.No incantations with prayer, no spells;nor with poems. You leavescratching your head,ambivalent to what has transpired.Sometimes forced, sometimes fluid,never simple, unless void of allmeaning save the surface.But prayer and poems both deal in depths;they refuse surface and befuddle the hurried.And poems,Continue reading “Poem after a line from Auden”

Learning Father

History has few exemplars to be proud of. The Greeks did well with Priam, at least, willing to face “iron-hearted, man-slaying Achilles” for the sake of a son. My own culture’s replete with absent men, “bronze Anzacs” taught from birth not to cry. The Biblical witness, too, leaves something to be desired: most too busyContinue reading “Learning Father”


…yo​u will not find my actual life in these pages so much as my thoughts on the graces Our Lord has given me. I have reached the stage now where I can afford to look back; in the crucible of trials from within and without, my soul has been refined, and I can raise myContinue reading “Retreat”

In Translation

If you find them worth publishing, you have my permission to do so – as a sort of ‘White Book’ concerning my negotiations with myself – and with God. (Dag Hammarskjöld, in a letter to Leif Belfrage)* And so they sat together, the poet without “a single word of Swedish” at hand, and the translator,Continue reading “In Translation”

From Ashes 10: Søren Kierkegaard – Original Sin and the Fear of Possibility

“When you’re absolute beginners,” folk singer M. Ward tells us, “it’s a panoramic view, from her majesty Mount Zion, and the kingdom is for you.” What he seems to suggest here is that, at any beginning point, there appears an infinite potentiality to life, stretching out like a majestic panorama before us. W.H. Auden, in hisContinue reading “From Ashes 10: Søren Kierkegaard – Original Sin and the Fear of Possibility”

W.H. Auden: Undoing the Folded Lie

As October draws to a close, it’s time for an essay to draw together our month spent with W.H. Auden. He is a controversial figure in Christian poetry, and so this essay comes with a minor warning that it may not be to everyone’s reading taste. But he is, I think, still a rewarding poetContinue reading “W.H. Auden: Undoing the Folded Lie”


For my last Auden poem for the month, I have decided to fuse much of his poetry together in this homage to his work, great and humble alike. Along with the many famous, more memorable poems, Auden also wrote several poems which were kinds of collections of miniatures, poetic vignettes, sometimes sweet, sometimes stark andContinue reading “Audenesques”

Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)

One of Auden’s more challenging but also most remarkable poems is “Under Sirius”, written as a response to medieval Latin poet Fortunatus who, by Auden’s account, longed for humanity to experience some sort of tragedy to shake them to their senses. Auden’s inspiration came from the time known as the “dog days”, associated with theContinue reading “Indecisive Spring (After W.H. Auden’s “Under Sirius”)”

The Lesson (After W.H. Auden’s “But I Can’t”)

One of W.H. Auden’s greatest gifts as a poet was his versatility, being one of the major figures in the 20th century for resurrecting a wide range of traditional poetic forms. He was as comfortable with free verse as he was with long-forgotten French forms. His masterly villanelle, “But I Can’t” – an achingly simpleContinue reading “The Lesson (After W.H. Auden’s “But I Can’t”)”

Like Love (After W.H. Auden’s “Law, say the gardeners, is the sun”)

The first of our Auden poems for the month is the wonderful “Law, say the gardeners, is the sun”, a poem that Auden wrote in 1939 around the time of his conversion to Christianity. It was famously written shortly after his profound and emphatic “September 1, 1939”, the poem he wrote on the outbreak ofContinue reading “Like Love (After W.H. Auden’s “Law, say the gardeners, is the sun”)”